James 3:13-18 – Where Does Your Wisdom Come From?

Read James 3:13-18

You may have heard the Book of James referred to as the New Testament Proverbs. Certainly it is not just a set of ideas and thoughts but rather a congruent teaching designed mainly for the teachers of the day, but certainly applicable to all. It speaks to us today even louder than ever.

Today we talk about wisdom. Two kinds of wisdom.  Wisdom that is of the world, that is demonic and evil, and the other, good kind, that is from God. So many people are concerned today with social justice and political correctness. At what cost? There seems to be such a sway away from what the Bible teaches. Bible scholars are aghast at the trends we see taking over society and how words of the Bible are twisted to fit people’s evil desires.

James was seeing the same thing and wanted to get things straightened out. He was starting with the teachers, I suppose hoping he could get an army of educators on the right page. He wanted to end selfish ambition and return people to God.

God’s word brings peace to those who listen. God’s wisdom is full of grace and gentleness, both great attributes for people in dealing with others. The “other” wisdom will bring division and jealousy because it is not considerate and giving, only self serving and full of disorder.

So what do we do about it today? How can we change the direction people think and follow?

Have you heard of the starfish story? It’s where they find so many starfish washed up on the beach waiting to die because they are separated from their lifesource–the water. One by one, a young person begins taking the starfish back to the water. When asked what they were doing, how could they possibly begin to save them all. The reply came, “I made a difference for this one.”

That’s what James was trying to do and what we should be trying to do as well. For those lost in their evil thoughts and motives, we need to bring light and truth. With gentleness and grace we need to be the example of true wisdom and let everything that comes from our mouth be helpful and full of God’s love.

Verse 13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Let’s pray. Father God, I am saddened by this world’s lack of focus on you and your truth. Godly wisdom is what I seek. I want to be so full of you and your wisdom that people can’t help but see and notice my gentleness, my grace, my peace and my sincerity. I want to be a full reflection of you. Let my words and deeds be the example needed to set your people free from the bondage of evil desires. Work in their hearts to feel the uncomfortable separation from you. Make their yearning for a relationship stronger than ever so that they will be open to looking for you in places they haven’t looked before. May the sermon of my life speak louder than my words ever could. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

James 3:1-12 – Watch Your Mouth!

Read James 3:1-12

Did you ever have your mouth washed out with soap when you were a child? I don’t think it’s a practice many still take part in these days, but I remember the taste of “Safeguard” bar soap very well. I think for my kids it was “Dial” liquid soap.

These days are also rampant with accounts of bullying and the negative effects that result.

We must really be careful what comes out of our mouths. Verse 6 says,  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” There is power in the tongue!

How do we tame our tongue? It’s not easy. Once something passes our lips, it’s all over. We can’t take it back. Not even saying “I’m sorry” can truly take away the hurt, shame, or guilt that may ensue.

So what should come out of our mouths? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Another good passage is Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Take a moment to let those two verses speak to your heart.

When we praise our Father, our mouth does what it is meant to do! We were designed to worship our Father, the creator of the universe. When joyful praise crosses our lips, our heart also sings, our spirits are lifted and it is something we can all do together. Harmony of spirit gives us life! We are at last giving pleasure to God.

Can you have a more thankful heart? Can you sing praise more regularly?

Let’s pray. Father, please forgive me for the hurtful things that come out of my mouth. As soon as the words out come, I realize they are negative and not helpful. Cleanse my heart and mind so that only thoughts that are uplifting and good fill my head. Help me be a light to others, reflecting your goodness and mercy. May praise always be on my lips for you great and worthy to be praised. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

James 2:14-26 – Useless Faith

Read James 2:14-26

What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.”  Since we cannot see God like we see each other, our faith allows us to truly believe.

But, it goes beyond that. Even demons believe in God. Our faith needs to be deeper. How’s that? Faith plus deeds equals righteousness or being “right with God.” That’s quite a concept.

Deeds would be what we do and how we live. Maybe we need to take our “deeds temperature.” If we are totally inward focused and do nothing to help others, our deeds temperature will be COLD! Alternatively, if we are active in our churches and community to help others, serving them in the name of Jesus, our deeds temperature will be HOT, or at least warm.

If our faith is alive and active within us, we are going to be burning to serve others. Jesus was the perfect example of being a servant leader. We need to be on the look out for the needs around us. We need to be listening for God’s instruction to us. Just like Abraham listened to God. Abraham really listened. I’m not sure I would have been as obedient to have nearly sacrificed one of my children. But God’s plan was perfect, and Abraham’s faith was played out in his deeds.

“You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” What deed can you do today?

Verse 26 says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” Is your faith alive or dead?

Let’s pray. Lord, I come to you today reflecting on my faith life. I don’t want my faith to be dead. I want to serve you and be transparent in my devotion to you. It is my desire that my actions truly make a difference in the lives of others. Give me the courage to live my faith out loud, louder than I already do. Show me the plans you have for me, Lord. I want to please you in all I say and do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

James 2:1-13 – Mercy Triumphs

Read James 2:1-13

Breaking the law, God’s law isn’t anything we intend to do. At least for most of us. Sometimes it happens. When we do stumble, we look for God’s mercy and forgiveness. When we seek, we find it. God is merciful and he does forgive, so long as we have also shown mercy.

What are ways that we can show mercy? We can start by not holding grudges against others. We need to forgive and forget, just as our Father in heaven.

This passage also speaks a lot to our attitude toward others. Being judgmental is something we definitely should NOT do. We all do it though. The example given was really good, didn’t you think? Since I’ve read it before, I’m always convicted to be more attentive to the poor and needy, than to respond to the rich and sophisticated.

And isn’t it a good point that it is the rich who are the very ones who make our lives more difficult. They are the rule enforcers, and many of those rules are designed to help them, the rich, giving no mind to the needs and position of the poor, or even middle class sometimes. That is a bit of a frightening realization – nothing has changed. Unfairness still exists.

I like how we have here the simple reminder of the “royal” law. We may also know this as the “golden rule.” That is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Yes, it’s Biblical, and what a good reminder. It sounds simple, but sometimes it is very difficult. Not everyone is lovable. I’m sure each of us knows someone who is stubborn, hateful, grumpy and mean. I could go on with adjectives, but it is set out clearly for us – love your neighbor! Period.

How can you be a better neighbor today?

Let’s pray. Lord and Father from above I thank you for this reminder. Your Word never returns empty, and today it has left an impression on me. Thank you that you have given me the resources to help those in need. Help me go beyond just the financial but to really be present for those less fortunate. Forgive me for times when I have not shown the mercy on others that would have been appropriate in your eyes. Forgive me for any hurtful things I may have said or done. Lead me to those people who need to hear from you today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

James 1:19-27 – Listen Up!

Read James 1:19-27

There are so many nuggets in today’s passage. Do you agree? I love how God’s word can always come alive and speak to us today!

I heard the other day that we need to listen twice as much as we speak because we have two ears and only one mouth. Think about that one! In our business, listening is KEY. In life, listening is really KEY!

We should be acting and responding to people in response to what they have said. If we listen closely, we can discern their needs, their hopes, their struggles. God can use us to help each other. That’s how the body of Christ works.

But too many times, we are busy formulating a response in our heads and our listening ears are clogged. Here, Paul is telling us to be slow to speak. His counsel is more to protect us from dispute or saying things out of anger, which certainly are good things to avoid. No matter what, when we are in communication with others, we need to be better listeners.

Listening for God’s voice is probably the most important voice of all. When is the last time you truly sat down and listened, waited for God?

It’s the same with God’s word. The Bible is at least something tangible that we can put our hands on. Many times God will use his word to speak to us. We need to come to him in our time of reflection and close out all the other noise of the world. Are we giving God the time he deserves?

Are we living out our faith based on the Word and instruction God has given us?

Take a moment to really reflect on that. Can you do better? What is keeping you from the full relationship with God that he is craving?

Verse 27 say,“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” 

One of the goals on my dream board is to help build an orphanage to care for children of Haiti. I am blessed to be able to help at the orphanage in our neighborhood here in Mexico, but I want to do more. I want to honor God and his wishes.

As I wait for this opportunity, I am trying hard to keep from being polluted by the world. I’m sure you can agree that this world has become a dark, delusional and dangerous place. Instead of being  sucked in, we should be empowered to make a positive difference.

Let’s be better listeners first, and then go do and be blessed!

Let’s pray. Father God I give you thanks for the ability to listen. Forgive me when I don’t take the time to just sit still in your presence. What is your message for me today? Please reveal yourself to me. In the same way, I want to be a better listener to the voice of others. You have placed me in this time and place for a reason, and I want to be able to live out your plan to my best ability, with your ability inside me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.